I’ve come to realize that at 46, I have spent a lifetime chasing the idea of love. It’s an abstract concept that most have a hard time holding in their hand long enough to understand. The feeling, when it’s true, might have you huddled in the corner whispering “my precious.”
Love is something we want to keep, but can’t name or map or diagram out to know when it is true. Like many people, I have spent the aforementioned lifetime with a conglomerate definition of love that comes from society, movies, books, and learned environment.
The concept is often too heavy for a person to consider individually. This would mean each of us would have to stand before the mirror and not be ashamed of what looks back at us. What happens when all those areas I have gleaned a definition of love from are broken?
The last three years have been a journey to love myself. I have started this late in life, but with a good set of tools: experience, knowledge, friendship. The journey will continue as my years tack on, but right now, in the strangest of times, I have found my definition of love.
Any of It
Sometimes I want to write a poem where our breath meets as it dances over our lips and tongue.
I’d forgotten what it felt like to be loved
to know the weight of an arm across my chest,
the wet warmth of velvet kisses, unexpected.
The way laughter pulls two souls together, or the surprise of existence the morning sun brings,
Or how a hand slides into another, grounding the world into reality,
the quiet closeness in awe of a sunset, fingers tangled in the soft waves of my hair.
These were all dreams I once had, the sweet rambles of sleep and rearranged heartbeats, soft delirium easily trapped in the dark minutes before midnight.
Jorge climbed the stairs of the tenement apartment building whose walls were as thin as whispers. He heard snippets of each family’s life as he ascended. His feet bowed the worn wood making them groan and creak.The dark hallways were scattered with mouse droppings and smelled of decay. Garbage cluttered the corners, broken toys scattered across the dirty floors like orphans.
The death of sounds was common here. No one cared where they went or who made them unless it disturbed their sleeping habits. It wasn’t unusual to eat lunch with gunfire or hang the clothes in the apartment to dry, listening to the sound of fists contacting a face.
He lamented the fact that life took away their compassion and left them numb to the atrocities in their own backyards. But this place was what he could afford on his meager pension from the mill. He couldn’t do better than this. It gave him pause, his head hanging for a moment.
On the fourth floor, he stopped. From apartment 22 came a noise he wasn’t accustomed to hearing. It drew him closer to the door with its peeling burgundy paint and lopsided, black metal numbers.
It was music.
Tender and passionate, he hovered at the door, fingers just grazing the paint. The space around his body filled with his own excited warmth. He leaned in with his ear pressed to the jamb forgetting about the building’s filth, forgetting many would sooner shoot you than look at you if you came close to their doors. He couldn’t draw away… not yet.
Jorge held his breath to not miss a sound. His entire body set afired right there in the dirty hallway. His cock twinged between his legs the louder the music got. For the first time in years, he felt like a man. Jorge wandered through thoughts of his youth and the nights spent with women clutched in his arms. How he’d slide into them deep, enjoying the musk of their bodies. Their mouths betraying the music of their sex.
Notes escaped from the cracks around the door spilling into the stale, heavy air. They were sweet melodic effluvia that danced in the air, kissing his face, and Jorge knew at once it was a woodwind. He listened carefully as the woman, yes….he was sure it was a woman playing, blew into the instrument.
He imagined the delicious pout of her lips pursed over the curved hole. The deftness of her fingers flew over the padded keys pressing them into the silver body. As she covered the holes the air stretched into music. Jorge heard the sole of her show tapping the hardwood, imagined her graceful neck and slender fingers.
Jorge closed his eyes and drank her in imagining the swell of her breasts as she inhaled to put strength behind the notes. He wanted to run his hand up her knee while she played a melody for him and watch her body stiffen at his touch.
His body betrayed him. His face flushed. Jorge’s body trembled and he was hard as stone, standing like a lecherous old man at a young girl’s door. The landlord lumbered up the stairs and his heart froze.
She was drunk and Jorge smelled the stale alcohol pouring from her skin from where she stood at the top of the stairs. Her body swayed and she held herself steady with the railing. The look in her eye devious as a vultures.
“What the hell are you doing over there?” she slurred.
“By the looks of the party in your pants, it doesn’t look like nothing, Jorge. You’re a dirty old man leaning against the door, huddled in the corner stroking yourself like a peeping Tom.” The landlord scolded, “I should kick you out, or better yet post your sad face in the lobby as a pervert. But you pay on time so I’ll just remember this. You will owe me.”
Something in the way she looked at Jorge made his stomach sick. He wanted nothing to do with being under her thumb or any other part of her body.
“I’m going now, up to my apartment. Sorry. I meant nothing. The music put me in a trance.” Jorge tried to explain, but the landlord just looked at his pants with a grin of a wolf.
She licked her lips and smiled, showing her poorly kept teeth. Another wave of her pickled insides came toward him as she spoke. He held back the vomit in his throat. Jorge looked down to see the pleats of his trousers tented like the pants of an adolescent, a wet spot forming there like a lewd death for everyone to see.
Jorge’s excitement faded and wished his cock would shrivel back into its cotton grave. He wanted nothing to do with this weak excuse for a woman and her wasted life. He wanted the dove behind the door, wanted to kiss her skin and please her….take her from this wretched place. But he said nothing more as he looked at the door again.
He hung his head as he walked past the landlord avoiding her intentions. Now he would never know the beauty behind the door. Reluctant, Jorge left the woman of his dreams with her music, her body of grace, her answer to the reawakening of his heart, and trudged past more death, to his own.
This new website was created to be less about personal life and more about a writer’s life. But yesterday I realized that these cannot be separated. Not if you are doing it right. Yesterday I was able to participate in a workshop put on by Shuffle Collective during their Weekend of Words. This has been a free event of poetry and writing. It is something to connect us in this time when we all feel physically and mentally disconnected from our surroundings. Allie Rigby spoke about writing from a sense of place, from the environment that you belong in, and it started me thinking (more than I had already been).
This pandemic has affected me in more positive ways than negative, and I consider myself lucky. It has taken out all the busyness of my life and pared it down to what matters the most. There has been time to start a new job, to complete projects, and to finish my novel. I have had the opportunity to get closer to my child in a meaningful, more adult way. This mother’s day I was treated to an insightful letter from my eighteen year old. I’m amazed at how far they have come in the world.
In this time, I have become closer with my two good girlfriends. This has always been a challenge for me. Women have continually stabbed me in the back my whole life. But these women have given me pause. They accept me with my array of faults and eccentric behaviors. They don’t mind that I’m a forgetful hummingbird most of the time. They lift me up when I can’t see myself in the mirror and let me know that the warped image I might see is not real.
For poetry month, I did something different. I jumped on an acquaintance’s prompt train because I was determined not to write a month of death poems for my mother. Not this year. Not ever again. He has always been a poet that I admired and one that I published when I was in that capacity years ago. Every night for a month, we wrote poems as a call and response. I had never done this before. I had always gotten a prompt and had to dig up, sometimes painfully, a poem that I only 40% liked.
This was different. Everyday, I collected random lines from the world. Things from nature or memories that floated into my head. The worries about pandemic and fragile loved ones. The grief of losing a way of life I didn’t realize I had established. At the end of the night, I would take his prompt and construct a poem from what I collected. It was an organic feeling. It was beautiful. What a gift to be able to see something new about yourself and your craft. I’m forever grateful to him for this. Along the way, we found a friendship too that is more deep and centered than I might have expected.
I’m not sure I have ever felt more whole in my entire life. All the years of grief and death. All the losses and terrible endings. All that suffering feels washed away with spring rain. This pandemic will change us all. Some in good ways and others not so much, but I think perspective means everything. This is a time when nature and universe has given every living being the opportunity to look inside themselves and see what they are made of. You owe it to yourself to do this instead of grasping at what was or what should have been.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful women I know who are loving their kids, other people’s kids, fur babies, and lifting other mothers with their compassion. It’s a great day to be alive.
“The Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman is above all else, a book about love.
Sure there are witches and magic and a bit of history. But the primary thread is love. The story is about a family of witches with the surname Owens. In the 1600s, their ancestor Maria Owens was killed and there was a curse placed on all the women of the family to lose the one they fell in love with. In the lineage, only women Owens are born until there is one son, Vincent.
Vincent, Frances, and Bridget are all siblings living in New York City in the 1960s. Their lineage as witches has been kept from them by their cautious mother Susanna who knew all too well of the pain of the curse against love. The children know they are different, but they don’t know how different until they go to Massachusetts for the summer of Francis’ seventeenth birthday. It is here in the family home paid for by Maria Owens in the 1600s do they find out about their gifts.
Their Aunt Isabelle gives them free reign to find themselves, to be children, and discover what they are made of. She teaches them spells, but moreover she loves them exactly as they are without trying to change them as their mother does. This home on Magnolia Street becomes a place they return to again and again.
“Don’t live a little, live a lot,” reminds Aunt Isabelle.
Each of the children struggle with their gifts and what they mean. They each do their best to stave off falling in love, afraid of the curse, but none of them can resist. I don’t want to go into any more detail about “The Rules of Magic” because I want you to experience the rich language filled with sensory description and heartbreaking tenderness of growing up a witch in the height of the 60s with war looming over them all. It is a book that covers family, love, individuality, strength of character, and perseverance.
What I will leave you with is my favorite quote which is something that I needed to be reminded of: